PBS Is Over the Rainbow

NPR reported today that PBS is ending Reading Rainbow--the award-winning show dedicated to books and reading--after 26 years of being on the air.

If you learned to read during the 80s--and discovered, too, that once you started reading you couldn't stop--I'm pretty sure you loved Reading Rainbow. (At least until your parents shipped you off to summer camp or you discovered music videos.) I did--a whole lot--and hokey hallmarks of educational programming aside, I can still look back at that show and appreciate it all the same. I loved having a story read to me, especially as a newly latch-keyed 8-year old, and it was fun to find out what other kids were reading. But I won't bore you with the details of how it ruled my daily school's-out schedule--let's consider instead that now-famous catch line, about not having to take anyone's word for it: isn't that at the heart of how we talk about books? Why one person loves a book and another person loathes it is by and large pretty subjective, but any reader worth her salt still wants to know what you think.

It's a sad day for Omnivoracious thirtysomethings.

What made me sadder, though, was reading the (typically) astute report from NPR about why it's going off the air. Funding, yes, is a big part of it, but also that there's a much larger need now for shows that teach kids how to read:

"Research has directed programming toward phonics and reading fundamentals as the front line of the literacy fight. Reading Rainbow occupied a more luxurious space — the show operated on the assumption that kids already had basic reading skills and instead focused on fostering a love of books."

I can't argue with that focus, but at the same time, if you don't inspire a love of books and storytelling in kids, how much of a bedrock can you create for reading skills? I'm not an educator, or a parent, and I don't pretend to speak authoritatively in this space. I just find it hard to separate the "how" from the "why."

The Rainbow is gone. Long live the Rainbow. I'll leave you with a clip of the opening sequence--love it or hate it? There are many, many episodes to choose from on YouTube and I'm afraid I don't have enough time to spend this afternoon in the Way-Back Machine to select a really choice one for you, but a quick scan does remind me that there were a lot of episodes involving LeVar Burton biking. I guess he'll have a lot more time for that now. --Anne

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